❚ LAST WEEKEND BANG ON PICCADILLY CIRCUS one of London nightclubbing’s most familiar superstars — a leading club promoter and party planner for the past 30 years — was beaten senseless at about 3.30am. Police say two people kicked him in the head repeatedly and ran off. They fractured his skull. So far, however, neither the Metropolitan Police nor Westminster City Council have reported any surveillance video footage of the incident. On Piccadilly Circus. The most famous, most brilliantly lit traffic roundabout in our 24-hour capital city.
Tuesday’s Evening Standard carried the headline: Boy George appeals to catch attackers of ‘oldest and closest friend’. The report said: “Philip Sallon, 59, a flamboyant figure on the West End club scene, is recovering in hospital after the assault near Piccadilly Circus in the early hours of Saturday. Mr Sallon, from St John’s Wood, who founded the Mud Club in the Eighties, was stamped on and kicked in the head and suffered broken bones in his face.”
The fact that Sallon is an overtly gay man has raised suspicions that the attack was motivated by homophobia.
Pop star George O’Dowd told the Standard: “I am very upset. He is my oldest and closest friend. He is a colourful character but certainly not aggressive. He is not someone who would have got into a fight. He is a bit like me and just goes out on his own.”
➢ Meet at the Eros statue on Piccadilly Friday night/Saturday morning April 15–16, from midnight to 03:30 to distribute witness appeal flyers, to talk to potential witnesses and to show your support. Alice Shaw, Tamara Adair, Benjamin Till have organised the Facebook group Supporting Philip Sallon.
➢ April 8 update: Guardian Online reports a change to the precise location where Sallon was attacked. “The victim was found outside Ripley’s Believe It or Not exhibition,” police told The Guardian. This is housed in the triangular building once known as the London Pavilion, directly across Shaftesbury Avenue from Gap, which was mentioned in early reports.
April 16 update — Only about 30 of the 127 Facebookers who said they would attend this morning’s rally had arrived when Sallon sympathisers carrying posters bearing the victim’s photo departed from the Eros steps just after midnight to seek witnesses in nearby streets. One of the three Westminster policemen accompanying them was vague about where Sallon had been found on April 2. He seemed to think Sallon had staggered north to Regent Street before collapsing, whereas the Standard had police reporting he was found outside Gap and The Guardian outside Ripley’s, which has five security cameras on various parts of its Piccadilly facades. Among many building works in progress around the Circus, five more CCTV cameras can be seen within line of sight of Eros himself, which makes it all the more surprising that no footage of the attack has come to light.
George appealed for witnesses to come forward: “The police are dealing with it but apparently there is no CCTV footage.”
The scandalous irony is that half a mile away, Westminster Council celebrates the glory of its CCTV system with a plaque in Meard Street, Soho, on the wall of the former nightclub “Gossips formerly Billy’s”. This legendary cellar club is where Sallon and O’Dowd’s generation gave birth to the once-a-week clubnight that transformed British clubbing at the dawn of the 80s, and made London a dance destination for the young people of Europe. [Read The Making of UK Club Culture, from The Face, 1983]
The inscription on the plaque, which was unveiled only last year, pays tribute to the late Ian Wilder, a Westminster councillor: “In recognition of his pioneering work in proposing Westminster’s Wi-Fi system, this site can be seen throughout the world 24/7”. Opposite the plaque, a Wi-Fi enabled camera hangs from a lamp-post so that the world may view the reasonably tranquil pedestrian walkway that is Meard Street. Seemingly, Piccadilly Circus which teems with people and traffic most nights at 3am does not qualify for such 24/7 surveillance.
Councillor Wilder saw how wireless technology was being deployed during a visit to the United States. In 2004 he initiated the installation of a pilot wireless network and four wireless TV cameras in Soho, portable enough to be moved to potential troublespots and slung from lamp-posts without attracting attention. They cost a fifth as much as traditional fixed-line CCTV cameras.
Within two years, the Wireless City Project had become a network of 40 wireless cameras, and in Soho, eight remote monitoring stations, as well as mobile applications for food and licensing inspectors, housing estate officers, and parking attendants. These cameras were integrated into Westminster’s existing £15million monitoring system of wired CCTV cameras. The council has long believed that its street surveillance network is one of the most efficient in the world, capturing high-quality, scalable data that can provide viable evidence in the law courts.
A video report at Guardian Online shows us inside Westminster’s CCTV control centre, where a supervisor talks confidently about being able to identify “aggressive beggars, illegal street trading — we can see it all” while enjoying “full talkthrough with police on the ground”. And yet. No sign of two thugs beating Philip Sallon unconscious, apparently. He is still in hospital.
Meanwhile in today’s Evening Standard fashion editor Laura Craik cites the police statistic that homophobic incidents in London have increased by 28 per cent over the past four years — “and that only reflects the ones that were reported”.
❚ @BoyGeorge on Twitter “My friend was brutally attacked & hospitalized on Saturday in Piccadilly, someone called an ambulance? Was it you?” — If you witnessed Philip Sallon’s beating last Saturday at about 3.30am, contact Westminster Serious Violence Team on 0207 321 9315, ref 65 1803/11, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.